Saturday, April 28, 2012

Meatball and Mushroom Soup (GAPS : primal : gluten-free : grain-free)

Meatballs and mushrooms make a great new twist on soup.  The broth is spiced with dill, making a delicate flavor that is sure to please.  Both kids and both adults in my house raved over this recipe.

Meatball and Mushroom Soup
Serves 4-6
  • Meatballs:
    • one pound ground beef, preferably grassfed
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 Tb minced green onion (green part only)
    • 1 egg, lightly beaten
    • 1 Tb sour cream
    • 1/4 tsp dried dill or 3/4 tsp fresh dill
    • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
    • 1 tsp celtic sea salt
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
  • 2 cups filtered water (or use more chicken stock if using storebought, which tends to be more watered down than homemade broth)
  • 3 Tb butter
  • 2 tsp dried dill, or 2 Tb fresh dill, minced
  • celtic sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Combine the meatball ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix it all together with your hands, and then form the mixture into small meatballs.  These should be bite-sized.  
  2. Melt 2 Tb butter in a 4 quart pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and a sprinkle of salt. Saute for 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent. 
  3. Add the carrots, celery, and a bit more salt. Saute for another 5 minutes.
  4. Add the sliced mushrooms and a pinch more salt.  Sprinkle freshly ground pepper over the veggies. Saute for about 5-10 minutes, until the mushrooms release their liquid and start to cook down.
  5. Push all the veggies to the side of the pot.  Melt the last 1 Tb butter, and brown some of the meatballs (as many as you can fit in the pot with the veggies). The meatballs don't need to be fully cooked at this point, but just give them a few minutes to get a bit of color on them.  Turn the meatballs after about 1-2 minutes to get some color on the other side.
  6. Add the chicken broth and water, lightly stir everything together, and carefully drop the remaining meatballs into the broth.  
  7. Bring the broth to a simmer and skim the foam.  Reduce the heat and season the broth with salt, pepper, and the dill.  
  8. Let the pot simmer for about 15 minutes. Taste the broth and adjust the salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Ladle into bowls, allow to cool a bit, and serve!  A side salad makes a nice accompaniment.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Changes to Your Emails from Me

Those of you who are e-mail subscribers will probably notice a change: instead of receiving the full text of my blog posts, you will now be receiving only a portion in your e-mails.  The reason for the change is that my content is being stolen and used on other sites, and it harder for the thieves to steal my content if the e-mails contain only a portion of the content.  I apologize for the change, as I really liked giving the full content in the e-mails.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lemon Coconut Muffins (grain-free : GAPS : primal : gluten-free)

Fresh lemon zest imparts a wonderful lemony flavor that pairs well with the coconut flour.  These lemon muffins are the newest variation on my old standby recipe for coconut flour muffins.  Add a side of bacon or sausage, and breakfast is served!

Lemon Coconut Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

  1. Melt butter or coconut oil in a small saucepan over low heat. Turn off heat and allow to cool slightly. 
  2. Meanwhile, combine the eggs, salt, and vanilla extract in a large bowl.  If using an immersion blender, pulse a few times to combine. Otherwise, mix to combine with a whisk or mixer.
  3. Add the honey to the butter (or coconut oil) and stir slightly.  Pour this mixture into the wet ingredients and blend well with immersion blender or mixer.
  4. Measure out the coconut flour.  Since coconut flour clumps, it will need to be sifted if you are not using an immersion blender.*
  5. Pour the coconut flour into the bowl with the wet ingredients.  Use an immersion blender or mixer to thoroughly combine all ingredients, making sure there are no lumps.  (Since coconut flour does not contain gluten, there is no worry of over-mixing it).
  6. Add the lemon zest, and stir or mix further with the immersion blender.
  7. Line a muffin tin with paper cups.  Scoop the muffin batter into the paper cups.  I like to use a 3-Tb scoop for this, but you could just use a large spoon.
  8. Bake muffins in 325 degree oven for about 35-45 minutes, until muffins are set and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  If you are in a time-crunch, you could bake them at 350 degrees initially, but you'll need to reduce the heat after a bit so they won't burn before being set in the middle.
  9. Remove from oven and cool.  Delicious with a pat of butter and a big glass of raw milk or milk kefir!  Pair these muffins with bacon or eggs for a hearty meal.
Time-saving tips:
*If you use an immersion blender to combine the ingredients, you can skip the step of sifting the coconut flour.  This also gives you less dirty dishes!
**While you are at it, why not make a double batch of muffins and throw one dozen into the freezer?  It doesn't take much more time, and they will make a very easy breakfast for some other week.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Breakfast Salad and 3 Spoon Dressing (GAPS : grain-free : gluten-free : primal : paleo)

We're coming to the end of local lettuce season here, and enjoying lettuce from my mom's garden.  Crispy bacon and sliced boiled eggs pair nicely, especially when drizzled with my family's favorite salad dressing: 3 Spoon Dressing!  This salad makes a great meal for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Breakfast Salad
Serves 2
  • 6 slices cooked bacon*
  • 4 eggs, preferably from pastured hens (older eggs will peel more easily)
  • romaine lettuce
  • celtic sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 Spoon Dressing (recipe follows)
  1. Boil the eggs.  My method to make sure the egg yolks are cooked perfectly (and not pasty-dry) is to place the eggs in a small saucepan and cover with water.  Place the pot over med-high heat.  As soon as the water starts to boil, turn off the heat, put a lid on the pot, and set a timer for 8 minutes.  As soon as the timer goes off, dump the hot water, then cover the eggs with cool water and lots of ice. The yolks will be cooked through, but still nice and moist.
  2. Meanwhile, wash the lettuce and tear it into bite-sized pieces.  My method for quick-and-easy lettuce preparation is to rip the lettuce straight into the basket of a salad spinner.  Fill the salad spinner with water and slosh the lettuce around to wash it.  Then pull the basket out and let the water drain.  Repeat the washing once more with fresh water.  Then drain the basket and use the salad spinner to dry the lettuce.
  3. Peel and slice the eggs. I like to use an egg slicer, but you could just slice them with a knife.
  4. Arrange the lettuce on plates.  Crumble the cooked bacon over the top.
  5. Add the sliced eggs, and sprinkle each piece of egg with a little salt.  
  6. Grind some pepper over the top of the salad.
  7. Top the salad with 3 Spoon Dressing. Enjoy!
3 Spoon Dressing
  • Dijon mustard (Natural Value brand gives the best flavor for this recipe)
  • Mild-flavored raw honey
  • Melted bacon grease 
  • Mayonnaise, preferably homemade
  1. Mix equal parts of dijon mustard and honey.
  2. Drizzle the honey mustard over the salads.
  3. Drizzle about 1-2 Tb of melted bacon grease over each salad.
  4. Drizzle about 1 Tb mayonnaise over each salad. If you are using storebought mayo (which is much thicker than homemade mayo), you may want to mix it in with the honey mustard so it will be pourable.
*Bacon is listed as not allowed on the GAPS food listThe GAPS diet is based on the SCD diet. According to the SCD-legal and illegal list, "Smoked bacon that has been fried very crisply is allowed once per week. There are sugar-free bacons available and if you are able to find a source of sugar-free bacon, you do not have to limit your consumption to once per week. Usually the low sodium varieties do not contain sugar but check the labels carefully.My family has had bacon about once/week ever since the first few months of the GAPS diet were completed.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Safety of Using Homeopathic Remedies While Breastfeeding

This article is a guest post by Joette Calabrese.  This is the second in a series on homeopathy for infants and children. 
As mothers, we know that there is no better nourishment for our babies than breast milk.


Whatever a mother eats, drinks or uses medicinally, will influence her milk supply. Because of this superbly close affinity between the mother’s health and her milk, it’s vital that it be full of rich nutrients (courtesy of her nutrient-dense diet) and clean of any harmful substance from the likes of over-the-counter meds, antibiotics or steroids.

Drugs leave havoc in their wake by suppressing illness, compromising immunity and carrying with them side effects; many of which are not put to rest simply by halting the medication.

But what if the mother gets sick? Well, that’s where homeopathy comes in to play.

Homeopathic remedies are not like over-the-counter meds, antibiotics or steroids. While the latter treat the symptoms, homeopathy addresses the entire person. Additionally, drugs tend to suppress the illness, while homeopathy helps the body overcome it.

Homeopathy has no side effects and will not interfere with any other medications or procedures. Plus, it’s the gentlest and also most powerful way to give the gift of robust health to both mother and child.

When a breastfeeding mother becomes sick, I strongly encourage her to try homeopathic remedies.

This means that the remedies a mother might use for acute illnesses (mastitis, yeast infections, UTI’s, colds, flu’s, ear infections, etc) are both gentle and safe.

Even if the mother and child are in good health, I still encourage the daily use of three cell salt remedies while the baby nurses to promote and maintain robust health. Calc fluor 6x, Nat mur 6x and Silica 6x have a reputation for helping to build bones and teeth enamel, strengthening blood vessels and arteries, and building strong and resilient blood, skin, hair and nails.

These and other cell salt remedies will help to nourish and fortify the infant’s health, too.

A nursing mother gets the best of both worlds when she uses homeopathic remedies. Not only is her health gently and safely restored and supported, but in the process, her baby’s health is also nourished with every nursing moment.
The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and may not be construed as medical advice. The reader is encouraged to make independent inquires and to seek the advice of a licensed healthcare provider.

Do you wish you could be the healer in your family?  I know what its like.  As a mom and homeopath, I’ve distilled my techniques  to a system that will teach you how to  take care of your family via homeopathy, common horse sense and just the right measure of nutrition.  Its called“How to Raise a Drug Free Family”.  Its all of my  methods, tips and tricks designed for mothers and others all wrapped up into one system.  I promise you’ll love what you’ll be able to accomplish with this information.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies Perfected! (grain-free : gluten-free : GAPS version)

I am really, really excited about this cookie recipe, as the taste and texture is like the cookies I remember from the days before we were eating grain-free. Straight out of the oven, these cookies are wonderfully crispy on the edges and chewy in the middle.  After a day or two on the counter (or in the fridge), they are nicely soft and chewy.  These cookies don't have a strong coconut flavor, and have also been enjoyed by people that are not eating a grain-free diet.

The GAPS diet does allow cocoa to be eaten occasionally once digestive symptoms have subsided.  The challenge to making these cookies GAPS-legal is finding chocolate chips that are sweetened with honey, as other sweeteners are not allowed on GAPS.  I used dairy-free, soy-free chocolate chips, but they still aren't GAPS-legal because of evaporated cane juice as a sweetener. You could easily omit the chocolate chips, or even replace a little of the coconut flour with cocoa if you prefer.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen cookies
  1. Set your oven racks so that none are in the bottom third of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 325 F.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the salt, baking soda, coconut flour, and almond flour.  Whisk well to combine and break up any lumps of coconut flour.
  3. Beat the softened butter for a couple minutes, until it is light and fluffy.
  4. Add the honey and continue to beat for a few more minutes until the honey is incorporated very well.  If you are using a stand-mixer, make sure you scrape the sides and bottom a couple times to get everything incorporated well.
  5. Add the peanut butter and vanilla. Mix well, scraping the bowl as needed.
  6. Add the eggs one at a time while the mixer is running.  The easiest way to do this is to break all of the eggs into a bowl or cup and then just pour them in one-at-a-time.  Let each egg get incorporated before adding another one.
  7. While the mixer is running, add the dry ingredients a little at a time.  Since coconut flour does not contain gluten, there is no worry of over-mixing it!
  8. Stir in the optional chocolate chips and pecans. 
  9. Scoop the cookies onto greased cookie sheets (or line the cookie sheets with silpats, which are wonderful since the cookies never stick and are less likely to burn).  I like to use a 1-Tb scoop for consistently pretty cookies, but you could just use a spoon.
  10. Press down the cookies slightly with a spoon or fork. Skip this step for subsequent batches baked on already-warm cookie sheets, as those cookies will spread more on their own.
  11. Bake the cookies at 325 F for about 16-20 minutes (or a few minutes longer if you are cooking them on stoneware). They are done when they are golden brown on top and a little darker brown on the edges.
  12. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.  Then use a spatula to move them to a cooling rack.
  13. Once cool, store these cookies in an airtight container.  They can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer if you won't be eating them all in the next few days.  They are nice and chewy straight from the fridge, and even soft enough to eat straight out of the freezer!  Storing them in the freezer will also remove the pressure of having to eat them all in a week or so, as they will last for months in the freezer.

*I used dairy-free, soy-free chocolate chips, but they are still not GAPS-legal. To make this recipe GAPS-legal, you may have to omit the chocolate chips or try to make your own using honey as a sweetener.  Or, you could replace a little of the coconut flour with cocoa and have the whole cookie be chocolate flavored.
**I love using my Kitchen-Aid stand mixer for making cookies as it makes it very easy to add the ingredients while the mixer is running.

This post is part of Monday Mania, Pennywise Platter, Fat Tuesday and Fight Back Friday!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tips for Planting the Summer Vegetable Garden and Deep Mulch Gardening

This post is an updated version of one that was originally published in April 2011.
We've passed our last frost date here in southern New Mexico, so it is time to plant the summer garden! I'm excited for the year ahead, and hoping to try a few new techniques this year. I have a couple new raised beds for more planting space this year, and I'm going to try out deep mulch gardening in some areas instead of my usual method. The keys to a happy garden are good soil, the right amount of water, and plenty of sunshine.

Plan it Out
Before I planted my first summer garden a few years ago, I drew up a little plan of my garden and mapped out where I would plant everything.  Then I actually planted things and learned that the "plan" was totally off. These days, I still like to do at least a bit of planning ahead for plant placement. I do the following:
  • Take stock of old seeds - If you've previously planted a garden, you may still have some old seed packets.  Figure out what you've got and what you still need for this year. I only had to buy a couple seed packets this year. 
  • Plan for companion plants - For instance, tomatoes will benefit from being planted near parsley and dill, and would enjoy the afternoon shade offered by sunflowers.  Basil likes to be planted near tomatoes. For more ideas, check out my post on companion planting with herbs.
  • Get a rough idea of plant placement - Make sure to find a nice, sunny spot for your plants.  To reduce pests and diseases, it is a good idea to make sure you don't plant the same type of plants in the same location year after year.  I also need to re-think plant placement a bit each year because my compost heap changes locations and other plants (like strawberries) have taken over more area in the garden.
Prep the Soil and Add Compost
Good soil is key to a flourishing garden.  The ideal soil will have plenty of nutrients for the plants, will drain away excess water to prevent root rot, and will also retain enough moisture to keep the plants from drying out too much between waterings. Even if you have great soil, at a minimum you'll still want to turn over the dirt in your garden annually (unless you want to try the deep mulch gardening technique, which I will describe later in the post). This ensures that the ground is not too hard-packed so that roots can easily grow.  It also helps to mix nutrients evenly into the soil since certain areas may have been depleted by previous plantings.

If you don't have very good soil, you'll need to amend it to make it better.  Overly sandy soil drains too quickly and the plants will dry out too much.  In some yards, there is clay soil which is problematic since it drains very slowly and is very compacted (which makes it hard for roots to grow). The best thing to use for amending your soil is compost!

Compost is basically decomposed plant matter, and it is full of nutrients.  Using compost is a great way to enrich the soil as it retains just enough moisture and provides all the fertilizer your plants will need to grow and thrive.  The ground in my yard is full of sand and rocks.  Every year I remove more rocks and add more compost, so over time my garden soil is getting better and better.

Compost is also great to use because it can be very cost effective. I have two large compost piles, and it is wonderful to put all of my vegetable scraps plus yard waste to such good use.  If you don't yet make your own compost, check to see if your local city has any available.  In my area, we can get compost for free at the city landfill.  You can also buy compost at the store.  Whichever compost you use, make sure it is fully composted before planting your vegetables in it.  My mom uses store-bought compost and finds it best to amend the soil and then wait 1-2 weeks before planting.

Get to Planting
Once your soil is ready, you can start planting!  Some plants, like tomatoes, get planted individually with plenty of space between plants.  Other plants, like corn, get planted in rows.  And then squash, cucumbers, and melons get planted in hills.

When transplanting tomato or tomatillo plants, it is a good idea to plant them much deeper than other seedlings. The bottom of the main stem (which includes some leaves) should be buried in the ground.  This will give the tomato plants a head start as roots will grow off the main stem.

This year, the edible plants in my garden will be:
  • Tomatoes
  • Butternut squash, spaghetti squash, zucchini, and yellow squash
  • Cucumbers
  • Sunflowers, marigolds, and nasturtiums
  • Strawberries 
  • Swiss chard
  • Watermelons
  • Pumpkins
  • Green onions
  • Celery
  • Corn
  • Parsley, basil, oregano, dill, mint, and thyme

Make it Beautiful with Flowers
I take a queue from my mom and always plant flowers in with my vegetables.  This makes the garden beautiful to look at, but it also aids the vegetables.  For instance, sunflowers can provide late-afternoon shade for tomatoes, marigolds can benefit strawberries, and zinnias can attract lots of beneficial pollinators.  Nasturtiums are also great to plant as bugs are more attracted to them than to your veggies. For more information on companion planting with flowers, check out the Extreme Gardening book.

Set up the Watering System
Where I live, we have a yearly rainfall of only 8-11 inches so supplemental watering of the garden is absolutely required!  If you don't get regular rain in your area, you'll also need to supplement the water in your garden.  I know many people who like to use sprinklers or even water with the hose by hand, but my preferred method for watering is a drip system. Drip systems are wonderful for many reasons:
  • Drip systems deliver water directly to the ground around your plants.  This keeps the plants healthy and beautiful as many do not like having their leaves wet.
  • If you use a timer with your drip system, it will ensure that your plants get watered on a regular basis. This is a must for me as I can't be trusted to remember to water my garden all the time.  
  • Drip systems conserve water since the water goes directly into the ground where it is needed, instead of up into the air.
Setting up a drip system can be complicated or simple.  My drip system is part of the overall landscape irrigation system that we installed.  However, you can easily set up a drip system off the hose bib in your yard as well.  They even sell drip system kits at the home improvement stores.  If you want more info, check out this free irrigation tutorial site.  

Once you are done transplanting and your seeds have started growing well, it is a good idea to apply a layer of mulch to the garden.  Mulch helps to keep the ground from drying out too much, and it also keeps the plants off of the moist ground. Alfalfa hay is especially good to use as a mulch because it provides nutrients to the soil as time goes on.

Deep mulch gardening, which I will be experimenting with this year, is a method whereby you add lots of mulch (at least 8-12 inches) and leave it in place.  Then you just separate the mulch a bit to plant.  This method is supposed to involve no digging or weeding, as more mulch gets continually added on top while the mulch on the bottom breaks down.  Where I live, the trickiest part of implementing this method will be watering.  I'll let you know how my experiments with this method work out.

Get the Kids Involved 
Getting your kids involved in the garden is wonderful.  It teaches them about the life cycle of plants, lets them feel responsible and confident, and gives them skills for their own gardening endeavors as they grow up.  Even very young children can participate, although when they are under 2-years-old their contributions will look more like getting filthy in the dirt. My daughter has had her own little garden space since she was three-years-old.  She helps me plant seeds and transplant seedlings into my garden, but she especially loves having her own space where she can plant anything she wants, however she wants!  And she is immeasurably proud when she gets to harvest food from her garden and watch us all enjoy it at the dinner table.

Watch it Grow and Keep a Journal!
Once your garden is planted, it's time to enjoy watching it grow until the foods are ripe.  A friend gave me the great idea to keep a gardening journal.  Each year, I record what was planted, when it was planted, and how it fared.  This helps me keep track from year-to-year on what worked best.

What are you planting this year? Have you tried deep mulch gardening?  What are your tips for planting the summer garden?

This post is part of Fight Back Friday!